By Glen Wunderlich
Professional Outdoor Media Association
Down in the wildwood, sittin’ on a log,
Finger on the trigger and eye on a hog;
My hold was good, so I let ‘er go,
And that hog de-parted to Ohio.
That sure takes some doin’ from Lincoln County, West Virginia, home of General Chuck Yeager and Steve McComas. Since most people know a bit about ol’ Chuck, here’s a little of what I know of Steve, affectionately known as one of the biggest liars in the area. As a matter of fact, while we were at the Vandalia Gathering at the State Capitol Complex in Charleston, they held a liars’ contest as part of the weekend’s festivities and wouldn’t let Steve compete. Turned out, they had a rule against allowing professionals. Folks say there’s a dead giveaway to know when he’s not telling the truth, however: his mouth is open.
Actually, he’s a good ol’ boy who’s introduced me to some of the finest hunting land in the country. He knows the back roads and those who live among the hills and calls out their names and waves as he drives by. I couldn’t wipe that grin off my face as he sawed on his fiddle at a local get-together in Branchland Friday night, The Vandalia Gathering in Charleston on Saturday, at a Guyan Valley High School class reunion Saturday evening, and back to the final day of pickin’, fiddlin’, and singin’ at the Capitol on Sunday. Man, there’s nothing else like it, but it was time for a change of pace and some Southern style groundhog huntin’ was on Memorial Day’s agenda.
We searched high and low and found the orchard grass hay far too tall to spot a hog, so we headed where we could look down onto a field prepared for tobacco planting at the Stratton farm. Soon, I spotted movement on a distant log pile across the field well below us. Swinging into action I read 177 yards on my rangefinder to the logs from the vehicle. Steve obligingly offered the first chance to me and I opted for some serious horsepower: my Browning A-Bolt in .300 Winchester Magnum and Shepherd scope fed with 110 grain Hornady V-Max verminators. I eased on down the hill with Steve’s homemade blue jean sandbags and set them on the down slope. Soon, I found a second hog atop the pile, mere feet from the other one; Steve let me know there was a third one there, too, but I already had a plan.
The one on the left was nominated and his number came up in 15 one hundredths of a second from ignition. His associate couldn’t comprehend the quick disappearance of his pal and he sat there studying on it long enough for me to get another missile from my pocket. Another one de-parted to Ohio. I never saw the third one but I focused on the logs, while Steve checked out the low ground behind us. Before long, curiosity and my home-brewed charge got the best of the third hapless log hog and we headed to Cowhide Branch Road.
We met Jimmy working near the sawmill and he willingly gave us permission, although he was pessimistic about our chances. As we poked along the winding dirt road, we came across four people sitting at the back of a tractor setting tobacco plants. We safely distanced ourselves from them at the far end of the field, where I noticed movement in some high grass. I retrieved my .223 Thompson/Center Contender pistol with its factory 14-inch, ported barrel under a fixed 7-power Burris long-eye-relief handgun scope and chambered a zippy 40-grain V-Max bomb. Yardage was confirmed to be 117 and another one succumbed. Investigating the scene, we determined there were more hogs at hand so we got back into position at the same place where I had taken the last one. This time, Steve tried his hand with the Contender, as I watched through my binoculars. Unfortunately, Steve didn’t have his earplugs in securely and paid the price with a headache afterward, while the hog paid most dearly.
Before long, the farmers finished their chores and we had the place to ourselves. With room to boom, I confidently put the .300 Winchester back into action and took out a couple more pigs making it 6 for 6 on the day plus Steve’s contribution. I set the hogs out for the vultures, and before we drove off, they gracefully swooped in below the hardwoods’ canopy. When we returned the next day, they were still on the nourishing main course.
In a land where Republicans are as common as ugly girls competing in the Miss America pageant; where music is produced without electricity; where venison goes well with deer meat; where vultures always show up with buzzards; where woodchucks and groundhogs are despised equally by farmers, I was welcomed everywhere and always encouraged to return. I think I will.